Lakers past inspirational speeches
Players know exactly what needs to be done, but can they actually do it?
DALLAS -- The Los Angeles Lakers started off their 2011 postseason by watching bits and pieces of the movie "True Grit." Clips from the film revolving around an arduous journey out in the wild, wild West interspersed into the team's video scouting sessions were supposed to motivate the team by paralleling the difficult three-peat bid on which the Lakers were about to embark.
The odyssey has become harder much faster than anyone expected, with Los Angeles falling into a 3-0 hole to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.
No team in NBA history has come back to win a playoff series by winning four straight after losing three straight. Ninety-eight teams have tried.
The Lakers gathered to watch film in their downtown Dallas hotel Saturday, for what could be their last day of practice this season should the Mavericks complete the sweep on their home court Sunday, and there was a new movie edited in to the game footage they watched.
It wasn't "Hoosiers," or "Miracle," nor was it "Rocky," "Rudy," or any other inspirational sports meme.
Nope, with the back-to-back defending champions on the ropes, the Lakers watched their failures from Game 3 followed by scenes from "Jackass."
And it wasn't done just for a laugh or to lighten the mood, either.
"The things they do are dumb," guard Shannon Brown said. "And the mistakes we were making in the game were dumb, too."
The decision to go with the Johnny Knoxville approach, rather than Knute Rockne, came from Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
He is aware his legendary 20-year coaching career is one loss away from going kaput. But rather than breaking out a "win one for the Gipper" speech, he is not asking his players to dream the impossible dream to beat Dallas.
He just wants one win at a time.
"I told them not to think about that," Jackson said, casually wearing a white U.S. Open baseball cap before practice. "I said, 'That's not what I want you thinking about. I want you thinking about winning tomorrow's game, forcing another game in L.A. on Tuesday. That's all you think about.'"
His message made it to the team.
"Just relax and play," Kobe Bryant said.
Bryant and Derek Fisher, the team's co-captains, met in a room adjacent to the visitors locker room at American Airlines Center for more than an hour after the game Friday night. Pau Gasol joined them for a bit and later Jackson stopped by to discuss the team's predicament.
The goal was to identify what could be corrected in Game 4, not to call for any drastic changes.
While Fisher is relied upon by the Lakers for knowing the right thing to say at the right time as much as for his point guard duties, he and Bryant had yet to address the team with any rah-rah material coming out of their sit-down.
"We're past that," Bryant said.
Even though the team is in a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole, the fact remains they were up by 16 points in the third quarter of Game 1 and by seven with five minutes to go in Game 3.
"We're three minutes away from being 2-1 instead of 0-3, so we shouldn't change anything," Jackson said. "We should stay pretty solid with who we are."
Internally, Jackson is dealing with the flood of memories that come with the reality that his unprecedented run, which includes 11 rings, the most of any coach in league history, could come to an end with one more loss.
"It's very hard," Jackson said, adding that his five children "hustled in" to congregate in Dallas for Game 4 in case it's his last time stalking the sidelines.
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"So, that's a drag," Jackson said after telling the story of his kids dropping their "adult lives" to meet their father. "I don't think they have to come, but they're coming anyway because they're insistent about it."
Meanwhile, Jackson is insistent about keeping his team focused on winning Sunday.
When asked if he would remind his team that a fourth straight loss would not only end his chance at a fourth three-peat but also be the first time his team was ever swept out of a series, Jackson balked at the notion.
"That's not there for me," he said. "I'm not that kind of a guy. I'm right here. We're right about making adjustments to be the better team [in Game 4]."
The Lakers won't fundamentally do much differently in Game 4 than they did in Games 1-3, including returning to their accustomed starting lineup of Ron Artest at small forward instead of Lamar Odom, even though Odom filled in admirably while Artest was serving his Game 3 suspension.
It was a group ready to move forward, one day at a time.
"I'm going to keep this train moving, so, you're either going to be on it or be in front of it," Bryant said. "But the train will keep moving."
Getting run over by a train? Sounds like a skit the "Jackass" guys might try in their next movie.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.